Prepping Your Wet Rack Vegetables
Prepping your product is vital not only for the beautiful appearance that it lends to the items, but also for the added shelf life that is gained. The requirements for prepping organic produce are listed below, but first; once fresh produce is harvested, the primary ingredient that becomes its life force is water. For most vegetable items, prepping involves maximizing the opportunity for water to enter the product and remain within its system for as long as possible. There are 6 items/categories of produce that are best served by regular prepping:
Leaf Lettuces: Lettuces (as well as all greens) do best being prepped in tepid water. The first step is to trim the butt-end of the lettuce and peel off any outer leaves that are not acceptable. Once this is completed, the lettuce is banded with a twist tie or plastic tape made for this purpose and submerged in a sink of water. It is extremely important to band the lettuce before placing it into the water otherwise, if the lettuce is banded after hydration, moisture will be trapped into the center of the head, which will cause rotting. Once the lettuce is taken out of the sink, turn it with the butt-end up on your drying tray so the water drains out from the core of the lettuce. Again, this will prevent interior rotting.
Bunched Greens (Kale, Collards, Chards, etc): By snipping clean the stem ends of these greens and lightly soaking them in water, they will not only look great, but will be much crisper. As with the lettuces they should be set to drain with the stem ends up.
Celery: Both ends of celery need prepping and soaking. The butt-end is snipped clean, and the tops are lightly trimmed for an even look. To keep the tops from breaking, rubber banding them towards the top is recommended. As with the lettuce, band them before soaking to prevent interior rotting.
Broccoli: Although broccoli does not need to be soaked as part of the prepping process, trimming the ends of the stalks will provide a very clean look as well as help to keep them hydrated through out the day as they are misted. The broccoli will literally drink the water through the snipped ends.
Loose Carrots: It always helps carrots to be hydrated. When you open a 25 lb bag of carrots, simply put them all in the sink for a bit and allow them to soak in tepid water. Some of the carrots will actually need a little snipping on the ends where the greens were attached. This will typically show up as a brown “nub”. No need to slice it off and take a portion of the carrot with it. You can just slightly graze it off for a cleaner look.
Corn: Although corn does not need hydration as part of the prepping process, prepped corn can look dramatically better than corn that is simply placed on the rack directly out of the crate. Snipping the bottom end that was originally attached to the stalk is the first step. Then to clean up the top end with the tassels, you need to trim the loose greens and tassels with scissors. This gives a more precise and cleaner effect. Once the corn is prepped and on the rack it is fine for it to get an occasional light misting to prevent the husks from drying out.
When your produce department carries both conventional and organic product, the best prepping solution is to have two prep sinks - one that is used exclusively for conventional product and one that is used exclusively for organic product. If a shared sink is all that is available, make sure and prep your organic items in the sink first. After prepping your conventional items, make sure to clean the sink with cleaners that have been recommended and approved through the National Organic Standards.